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Key Clinical Updates in Cancer Prevention

The USPSTF recommends genetic counseling and, if indicated after counseling, genetic testing for women whose family or personal history is associated with an increased risk of harmful mutations in the BRCA 1/2 gene.

PRIMARY PREVENTION

Cancer mortality rates continue to decrease in the United States; part of this decrease results from reductions in tobacco use, since cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of cancer. Primary prevention of skin cancer consists of restricting exposure to ultraviolet light by wearing appropriate clothing, and use of sunscreens. Persons who engage in regular physical exercise and avoid obesity have lower rates of breast and colon cancer. Prevention of occupationally induced cancers involves minimizing exposure to carcinogenic substances, such as asbestos, ionizing radiation, and benzene compounds. Chemoprevention has been widely studied for primary cancer prevention (see earlier Chemoprevention section and Chapter 39). Use of tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer prevention is discussed in Chapters 17 and 39. Hepatitis B vaccination can prevent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and screening and vaccination programs may be cost effective and useful in preventing HCC in high-risk groups, such as Asians and Pacific Islanders. Screening and treatment of hepatitis C is another strategy to prevent HCC (see Chapter 16). The use of HPV vaccine to prevent cervical and possibly anal cancer is discussed earlier in this chapter. HPV vaccines may also have a role in the prevention of HPV-related head and neck cancers. The USPSTF recommends genetic counseling and, if indicated after counseling, genetic testing for women whose family or personal history is associated with an increased risk of harmful mutations in the BRCA 1/2 gene. Guidelines for optimal cancer screening in adults over the age of 75 are unsettled; thus, an individualized approach that considers differences in disease risk rather than chronological age alone is recommended.

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US Preventive Services Task Force; Owens  DK  et al. Risk assessment, genetic counseling, and genetic testing for BRCA-related cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2019 Aug 20;322(7):652–65.
[PubMed: 31429903]  
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Wernli  KJ  et al. Screening for skin cancer in adults: updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2016 Jul 26;316(4):436–47.
[PubMed: 27458949]  

SCREENING & EARLY DETECTION

Screening prevents death from cancers of the breast, colon, and cervix. Current cancer screening recommendations from the USPSTF are available online at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/BrowseRec/Index/browse-recommendations. Despite an increase in rates of screening for breast, cervical, and colon cancer over the last decade, overall screening for these cancers is suboptimal. Interventions effective in promoting recommended cancer screening include group education, one-on-one education, patient reminders, reduction of structural barriers, reduction of out-of-pocket costs, and provider assessment and feedback.

Though breast cancer mortality is generally reduced with mammography screening, evidence from randomized trials suggests that screening mammography has both benefits ...

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